Creationist Psychiatrists Want to Return to Dualism (Seriously)

New Scientist ran a story in October about a bizarre movement among creationist psychiatrists(!) who want to return to Cartesian dualism in order to preserve their religious beliefs — the mind and the brain, they argue, are separate entities. Ugh.

One of the leaders of this movement, psychiatrist Jeffrey Schwartz, perfectly captures the idiocy of this idea,

I’m asking us as a world community to go out there and tell the scientific establishment, enough is enough! Materialism needs to start fading away and non-materialist causation needs to be understood as part of natural reality.

Non-materialist causation? WTF. David Hume would have had a field day with that! But what exactly does non-materialist causation mean? How would you ever measure non-material causation? According to New Scientist,

To properly support dualism, however, non-materialist neuroscientists must show the mind is something other than just a material brain. To do so, they look to some of their favourite experiments, such as research by Schwartz in the 1990s on people suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder. Schwartz used scanning technology to look at the neural patterns thought to be responsible for OCD. Then he had patients use “mindful attention” to actively change their thought processes, and this showed up in the brain scans: patients could alter their patterns of neural firing at will.

From such experiments, Schwartz and others argue that since the mind can change the brain, the mind must be something other than the brain, something non-material. In fact, these experiments are entirely consistent with mainstream neurology – the material brain is changing the material brain.

I can’t imagine how or why anyone would conclude that since the mind can alter the brain that the mind is non-material. In fact, it is only when we posit a non-material mind that this really becomes a problem (how exactly would this non-material entity exert influence of the material world).